Spring is nearly upon us, and the month of April will bring the Easter bunny, baseball games, and some welcome sunshine that hints of warm summer days ahead.
April is also Autism Awareness Month and it is a great time for us to educate ourselves about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Autism is a developmental disorder that affects social interaction and communication. The behaviors that define Autism manifest themselves to varying degrees and affect individuals differently, which is why it is considered a “spectrum disorder”.
While ASD typically appears by age 3, it is often identifiable much earlier. Studies have shown that early identification is important because providing the necessary therapies and intervention can help improve the child’s development.
The CDC currently estimates that 1 in 68 children have been identified with ASD. It is much more common amongst boys than girls, but it occurs across all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. There is no cure for Autism and there appear to be many causal factors, both genetic and environmental, that play a part in a child’s likelihood of having ASD. Understanding the early signs can give you the tools you need to raise a flag and get help for your child.
Common Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder
- delayed speech development
- no response to name
- poor eye contact
- repetitive movements such as rocking and twirling
- intense focus on one item for long periods
- lack of gestures
- loss of previously developed language
Symptoms and severity can differ significantly between individuals with ASD. If you are concerned that your child is exhibiting some of the signs of ASD, it is important to discuss your concerns with your child’s doctor. He or she may refer you to an expert for further evaluation.
If your child is younger than three years old, you may be eligible for Early Intervention services through the state. This link can help you start the referral process for an evaluation. If you child is older than age 3, your local public school can help you arrange for evaluation (even if they are not currently enrolled in school).
Once your child has been diagnosed with ASD, a therapy plan will be determined by doctors or intervention specialists in order to best improve your child’s development. There are also many resources, support groups, and community programs available to those whose lives are affected by ASD.
Support for Autism In Huntsville & Madison County
Autism Society of Alabama
The Autism Society of Alabama (ASA) is an organization dedicated to improving services for people with ASD and their families through education and advocacy. This vast source of information and services has many programs, events, and educational resources. The upcoming Walk for Autism in Huntsville is a great way to get involved locally and support the ASA. You can sign up here to participate – and there’s even an option to support the cause while sleeping in!
Another valuable resource and support network for local families is Making Connections. Making Connections is free and their meetings are open to the public. They offer professional speakers, family outings, a lending library, social networking, and more! You can help support Making Connections by participating in the US Space & Rocket Center’s monthly Sensory-Friendly Movies & Quarterly Sensory Friendly After-Hours Time at the Museum. Making Connections also has several upcoming meet-ups and guest speakers for families affected by autism – they post great updates and news on their Facebook Page.
Autism Resource Foundation
Further local support can be found through The Autism Resource Foundation, whose mission is to provide information, training, financial assistance, and education for families in their battle to defeat autism. Families with serious financial need may apply for scholarships between February and May of each calendar year.
What You Can Do to Support Autism Awareness
What can you do to help support Autism Awareness month in Huntsville? Get involved in one of the local fundraisers mentioned above. Spread awareness of the early signs of ASD by sharing this blog post on social media. Light it up blue in support of ASD families on World Autism Day, April 2nd.